Learn The Detailing Process
First of all, organize your thoughts. Nobody wants to be scrambling for brushes, wash-mitts, or a clean rag. Take the time to figure out what works best for you, to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Owner of AMMO NYC, Larry Kosilla, gives step by step videos on his thought process and how he does things when he details. I highly recommend checking out a couple of his videos, for a few starter points on how to begin your process.
Nothing is going to get the customer to call you back like the quality you deliver. I can go and wash 20 cars a day by myself, but if I go and walk by all of those vehicles, will they meet a customer's standard. The answer is probably not. It's simple, QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. You want to keep the mindset of, "Would this be acceptable, if someone were to wash MY car?" Make sure to wash and detail a car, to the extent of perfection.
Start With Friends and Family
Go with people you know first, they will give you good, constructive criticism for the work you are doing. Plus, you're working with the vehicles that matter the most to you. Buy a couple of quality tools and chemicals and get to work. Before I started buying bulk products, I bought a simple kit to get me started. Start with buying a kit that ranges from $30-$80. This will give you the right amount of tools and chemicals, to start you off. You can always start with your parents', or your sibling's vehicle. Start with a budget or write out your ideas of how much you would want to charge. I started out with charging $20 a vehicle, since no one knew who I was. Once people saw the quality of my work, they came back for business. This later helped me build up my referrals, and my price for each vehicle.
Here is a list of a few basic tools, soaps, and kits that will help you get started on your detailing process. If you are going to start doing interiors, as well, buy a reliable vacuum. Trust me, your body and time will thank you for it. If you don't believe me, just wait until you get to the dog hair and cigarette ashes on the floor board. Also, learn how to use the clay bar because it will become your best friend. I personally started with the Chemical Guys HOL148. It gave me everything I needed to start washing exteriors. Just make sure you don't waste all your money on bulk products right up front. The Nanoskin, is an example of a bulk product. It's approximately five gallons of car washing soap and, as you can see, it's priced at $46.17. That's almost $50 for ONE product. Start small and build up from there. Write down your profits and your expenses. When your expenses get to about 15-20% of your profits, then it's time to step up your game and get a retailer for chemicals and equipment. I ended up using some of Stinger Chemicals' high end products in the long run. This company sells their products in bulk. Once you feel that this could be a career choice, or if you feel that you're business is growing, that's when you can start buying in bulk. You wouldn't want to spend $90 on one product, if you're only planning to wash two vehicles. Really think about the choices you are making, and don't buy bulk products because you feel that is necessary. People start small all the time, then they build up. Keeping that mindset during your whole process, will help you decide on what you think is good for your business and won't allow you to feel trapped.
Once you feel comfortable, ask the people you know that helped you get started to refer their boss or their friend to you. It's about building those stamps of approval from what people see on your customer's vehicles. If your mom work's at a corporate office, ask her to ask her boss to allow you to wash their vehicle. Maybe ask around at your school, your work, or even put up flyers at your local bakery. This will help you gain customers and will allow your name to get around. Start a social media account. Facebook is incredibly popular when it comes to ads and company pages. Build your portfolio and submit it online. Once people see your wok, they will start contacting you.
Build Communications Skills
By communication skills, I mean learn to advertise. Once you started making a name for yourself, come up with your business name and start making business cards on a website like VistaPrint. Like stated previously, start with a social media account. Make an Instagram or a Facebook page. On your page, state your hours, pricing, location (whether it's at your house or if you decide to commute to wherever they want), and your website. This will give people the right amount of information and will answer any questions that they might have. Make sure to stay active on these sites. Answer private messages, comments, and accept any followers. Advertise yourself at any local company. Be sure to make flyers that have your name, a good contact number, and a website that displays your portfolio. Ask your friends and family to post pictures of the work you have done, and make sure they tag you. This is another way that your name can be exposed and passed around. Make sure to always communicate with your customer. For example, ask them what sort of detailing they are wanting. Whether it's just an exterior wash, an interior wash, or both. Ask any questions that you can think of, and make sure you answer they're question thoroughly. This will allow them to understand your business, and they will feel comfortable enough to leave their vehicle with you.
Participate In Webinars
There is always new stuff to be learned in the automotive industry. IDA, International Detailing Association, offers a series of webinars and how-to's on everything detailing. It's a good way for auto detailing professionals to connect on forums and learn from each other. For example, when a new vehicle comes out, the paint could be different from two years prior. This will help you understand a new washing method or will inform you on whether or not you need a new kind of soap. Get yourself out there and don't be afraid to ask questions. Webinars are a good way to teach you about certain vehicles. If Mercedes comes out with a new vehicle, you can go onto these webinars and do your research. See if they used a different paint, or if they have leather seats. Being active on these webinars, can also allow your name to get out there. There are plenty of people on these webinars, that started exactly where you are. They can give you tips on which tools to buy, or what brand of rags you should use.
Figure Out Your Method Of Mobility
This meaning, figure out how you are going to commute while doing your business. I started out, supplying everything from the back of my vehicle. I used people's water, and I carried all of my tools in the bed of my truck. Eventually, I got enough money from detailing to be able to buy a trailer that helped store all of my tools. Figure out what you think would be best for you. If you're wanting to stay at your apartment and detail, supply your tools in your vehicle. If you're wanting to commute to your customer, buy a trailer and supply your tools in there. This is strictly up to you. Decide on whether or not you want to travel, or have people come to you. This can also change, as your business grows. What you decide at the start, could change as soon as your business grows.
Love What You Are Doing
I can't stress this concept enough. Love what you're doing, and the results will show. The reason I started, was the fact that I loved detailing and working with cars. Being able to see your work and having people appraise you for it, tends to really affect the way that you do your job. It's the same way at any job. You try your best to stand out and shine. Do this while detailing, as well. As a part-time photographer, I learned that it can be a very challenging job. You have to learn to take pictures of scenarios that people will want to display. The same concept happens with detailing. You want to be able to do so incredibly well on a car, that the owner wants to display your work on their social media account. You want them to spread your name around town, and have them come back for business. You can't expect a "half-ass" job to get you money, you have to have a millionaire mindset. Get the job done and make sure you are doing it near perfection.